Tag Archives: God

It’s Monday and He’s Still Risen!

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.   7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

I read those words in church yesterday. The cross, an ugly, terrible event in the history of mankind also holds unspeakable beauty. Christ did not go to the cross for certain groups of people. He did not endure the pain for Jews. He did not endure the suffering for Gentiles. He did not take on just white or black people’s sins. The cross spanned the entire plain of humanity. Good, bad, beautiful or ugly in the eyes of the world, accomplished or broken, Christ died for everyone.

I love verse 7. Paul supposes that “perhaps for the good man someone would even dare to die.” However, Christ died for the helpless and the ungodly. That is truly Good News. There are days I don’t feel worthy of anyone’s love, let alone their life. Yet, Christ, knowing the depth of my sin and yours, bore the pain of the cross and suffered on our behalf.

I hope you’ll find time today to marvel at the death and resurrection of Christ. There often seems to be such a build up to Christmas and Easter, then, in a flash, they are gone. Christ died for you. He does not care what you’ve done. He does not care what others think about you. He does not even care what mess you are into right now. He demonstrated His love for you through the cross and is waiting for you to come to Him.

Have a great Monday everyone. He is risen!

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Do We Really Believe in the Resurrection?

Do you get the resurrection?

I know, as Christians we talk about the resurrection, but do you get it?

Praying with some friends today, I asked God to make the resurrection more real to me. I believe in it, but I think I’m just so used to the idea that I don’t truly get it.

Think about what we believe! Christ (God the Son), took on flesh, lived a sinless life, died to atone for our sins, and RESURRECTED!

That’s nuts!

The resurrection was a central part of the early church’s testimony (Acts 4:33) and the Gentiles mocked them for it (Acts 17:32). Naturally speaking, what we believe is absurd. No dead man gets up to live again.

That’s why I wonder if we get the resurrection. Do we truly sense and feel the miracle of what happened that day? Does it register as more than a good thought or a cool story?

The early church endured persecution because they got the significance of the resurrection. Nero was said to have lit them on fire to serve as lights in the evening. Why would people continue to confess faith in Christ if they knew death was imminent? Because they believed with everything they had that the resurrection of Christ was real.

In a sense, at the resurrection lies the crossroads of faith and unbelief. Without the resurrection, Jesus becomes no more than a guy with pithy sayings and a death wish. If Jesus stayed in that tomb, let’s stop with the craziness.

However, if the resurrection is true, that should absolutely light up our world. Words can’t even express the significance. Christ’s deity is proven, God has drawn near, and life becomes more about Him and less about us.

Do we get the resurrection?

I’m convinced that if we understood the significance, our lives would never look the same. After all, if we believe that a man died and came back to life to free us from sin and death, then should we not give everything we have to bring honor to His name? The resurrection radically alters lives.

  • Prayer becomes more than a domestic intercom (credit to Piper). We eagerly seek His will and direction.
  • The study of Scripture takes on new life as we eagerly want to know more about our resurrected Savior and God.
  • Money becomes utterly meaningless for comforts and pleasures.
  • People are no longer means to an end or faceless numbers. We see them as God sees them and we long for them to know Him.
  • Worship becomes a joy rather than a chore.
  • Duty, frustration, and routine are replaced with sacrifice, joy, and the cool tension of not knowing where God will lead you next.

Life, in view of the resurrection, takes on whole new meaning. The resurrection changes everything.

So, do you get the resurrection?

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How I Create My Own Idols in Parenting…

Are we in line with the heart of God?

There comes a time where we inevitably feel like we have life pretty well figured out. We know how to act. We know what to do. We’ve learned what to avoid. However, in the process, we’ve lost God’s heart.

As a parent, I do this from time to time. I have a pretty good idea how I want my child to act, I know certain attitudes or behaviors I want him to avoid, and I soon begin to parent in my own way rather than in a God-honoring way.

I often find myself chasing the idols of behavior modification and daddy idolization. In the process, I lose the heart of God as I mentor and love my child.

The idol of behavior modification sneaks up fairly easily and I don’t think I’m alone in this. As parents, we want our children to learn right and wrong. We want them to conform to certain behaviors, but we too often seek to change their actions rather than nurture their heart.

Proverbs 4:23 calls the heart the “wellspring of life.” Luke 6:45 says that “out of the heart, the mouth speaks.” God wants our hearts. I lose sight of this when I become fixated on my desire to see my child just “do it right” rather than patiently and lovingly shepherding his heart.

I also lose sight of the heart of God in parenting when I make myself an idol. I become big headed and self-righteous when I get frustrated that my child does not obey me. I know – children should obey their parents. However, I think we can all attest that at times we have disciplined not out of a desire to see our children mature and grow, but simply because our inflated egos were damaged.

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Is my primary concern that my son obey me or that he mature and grow in his love for God and people?

I know we all have our own parenting styles. The many different theories and practices fill up bookstores. No matter which one we choose, we must make sure we submit our own hearts to God. Without his help, we will only become frustrated and fatigued as we chase idols such as the ones I battle.

Remember the words of Jesus in John 15:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

As parents, we must regularly ask ourselves:

Are we in line with the heart of God?

 

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Give Up Everything?

In the process we have unnecessarily (and unbiblically) drawn a line of distinction, assigning the obligations of Christianity to a few while keeping the privileges of Christianity for us all. In this way we choose to send off other people to carry out the global purpose of Christianity while the rest of us sit back because we’re “just not called to that.”  —  David Platt, Radical

In the midst of writing a much larger post about Christianity and wealth, I ran across this quote. I’ve written about our idea of “calling” before, but I think Platt provides an excellent reminder for us. Many of the functions, attitudes, and sacrifices that God calls us to as Christians, we tend to give to a select few.

The heart of the Christian life is sacrifice. Romans 12:1 speaks of being a “living sacrifice”.

What comes to mind when you hear those words?

The challenge for me lies in not taking those words too lightly. It’s easy for me to write some things that I do off as a “sacrifice”, but I wonder if we really want to know what God means when he says “living sacrifice”.

In Luke 18, Jesus challenges a rich young man to sell everything. Luke 9, we find Jesus calling those who follow him to deny themselves and take up their cross. These are not easy words. They aren’t words we should take lightly.

Our tendency is to take Jesus’ commandments and make them into philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

Jesus just wants me to have a giving heart.
We shouldn’t love things.
I should care about people.

While statements like these are true, they are sufficiently vague as to encompass almost any way of living.

The reality is if we have a loving heart it will burst forth in action. If we don’t care about things, we will find ourselves compelled to live with and love less and less of our things as we become more satisfied in Him. If we truly care about people, our lives will begin to revolve around His work on this earth, rather than building our own kingdom.

Christianity is going all-in.

What does being a “living sacrifice” mean to you?

How do you tangibly “take up your cross”?

 

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What Would Charlie Brown Do?

One day Charlie Brown was in his back yard having target practice with his bow and arrow. He would pull the bow string back and let the arrow fly into a fence. Then he would go to where the arrow had landed and draw a target around it. Several arrows and targets later, Lucy said, “You don’t do target practice that way. You draw the target, then shoot the arrow.” Charlie’s response: “I know that, but if you do it my way, you never miss!”  —  John Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Sadly, the experience of many Christians parallels Charlie Brown having target practice. Our fear of legalism or anything approaching the idea has sent Christians headlong into the very unclear waters of ambiguity. As a subculture, Christians have created language that defines parts of the Christian walk without saying much at all. We speak of praying, love, sacrifice, etc., but rarely do the words, practices, or ideas get defined in such a fashion that one can say, “Yes, that defines my life” or “No, that’s not me.” Instead, the words take on their own meanings in each individual Christian’s mind and so everyone hits the mark because they all feel they succeeded in hitting whatever definition they have conjured up. The problem with that is if a word carries so many definitions to so many different people then it really has no definition at all.

Let me take a step back. This whole notion has been rummaging around in my head for awhile, but began to take shape after reading a blog post by my friend Kevin Martineau. His post entitled 7 Dangers of Not Having Goals does exactly what it sounds like. He lists the 7 dangers as:

  1. We can become passive.
  2. It is impossible to do any real evaluation.
  3. We can fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something and it is difficult to state why we are doing this or why we are not.
  4. We lose motivation because we are not challenged.
  5. It becomes easy to settle for a maintenance mode instead of development mode.
  6. It is easy not to plan ahead.
  7. The emphasis becomes upon activity rather than output.

If those 7 dangers do not sum up many struggles in the Christian experience, I do not know what does. I see myself in almost every one of them. As a whole, Christian culture has become afraid of setting goals and standards for fear of seeming legalistic or not “free”. As a result, many of these dangers define us.

This is to our downfall.

While I agree that numbers and progress should never become our idols, why should we lack discipline in the one area we claim is most important? We set a budget because we want to monitor how we use our money. We set goals in diet and exercise. I’ve even heard of people who set “serving” goals: they try to serve a certain amount of people in some way throughout the week.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. – Apostle Paul

I realize everyone’s life will look different to some degree, but it is essential that we take the Apostle Paul’s advice. If we say we should live a life of love, we need to flesh that out. What does that look like? What does Scripture say about it? How do I put that into practice? Then, when we meet each other we can definitively say whether we have been loving well or not. The idea is not to create standards to beat ourselves up over, but to spur us on in our race.

Think of the average Christian’s prayer life. I have read the average Christian prays (including at meals) 3 to 7 minutes a day. Reading through the New Testament, we cannot come away thinking that’s a good thing. But here’s the rub: How does that change?

The model we have now would implore people to pray and we’d cover a new topic the next week. People would leave church, pray a time or two throughout the week, feel better, and gradually slip back into their old lifestyle of 3 to 7 minutes. Maybe I’m being cynical, but that is the common experience many Christians face. It may be difficult, but it’s a difficult reality.

Honestly, I’m only a writer on a very small blog. However, I deeply want to honor God with my life. I have no visions of being perfect in this life, but I know it honors God to begin intentionally, sacrificially giving up more and more of my life to him. Setting goals is an invaluable asset to that end.

Look at Kevin’s 7 dangers flipped around a little. What if they read:

7 Realities of the Christian Life

  1. Christians are active.  (Hebrews 12:1-3)
  2. Christians do real evaluation.  (Acts 6, Luke 8:9-14 )
  3. Christians do not fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something. They have a purpose and know why they do what they do.   (2 Corinthians 5:14)
  4. Christ challenges us to be His ambassadors and His death and resurrection motivates us.  (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
  5. We are constantly asking God to examine our hearts and refine us.  (Psalm 26:2)
  6. We plan ahead because we know our mission.   (Matthew 28:18-19)
  7. The emphasis is on giving God glory and not the activity.   (Philippians 1:9-11)

We set goals because we want our lives to honor Him, not to achieve our own personal glory. I’ll leave you with this. Do not be afraid to set goals. Goals are healthy. We must stop impersonating Charlie Brown.

If you struggle with evangelism, ask God to help you, and set a goal of sharing your faith with someone this month. If you struggle with prayer, start out praying 5 minutes a day and work your way up.

As I’m still thinking through this, I’m sure there may be more to come. Until then,

Do you feel goals are an important part of the Christian life?

What goals are you currently setting for yourself?

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Christian Cannibals

Have words ever felt tangible to you? At times, they jump off the page and you interact with them in a way that seems almost personal.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

I normally enjoy reading other blogs. They inspire me. I try to vary who I read to better understand different perspectives and most of the time I come away encouraged. Today was different.

The hate, disgust, contempt were palpable. Upon reading the blog itself and the comments below it, I just felt dirty.

And this was a Christian blog.

It was written to attack one particular subculture of Christians. The author attempted to be funny, but the accusations and assumptions were enormous. The irony was evident as the author and those commenting unleashed a fury of belittling comments about how they had been judged in the past.I am not saying we can’t have dialogue and discussion. We can and we should.

The difference is that dialogue and discussion is beneficial to the body of Christ, where as just unloading on an entire group does nothing but alienate and wound.

I understand we have probably all had bad experiences with certain groups in the past. I just want us to find more constructive ways to work through differences.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Philippians 2:3-4

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Ignorance, Indifference, or Unbelief: Why Don’t We Pray?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

John 14:13-14

Ignorance, indifference, or unbelief. I can only think of three options.

The disconnect between these verses and our lives expands like a great canyon. The mark of our churches includes many good, even great things, but rarely desperate, concerted prayer. We have the power of heaven at our disposal, yet, if your life looks anything like mine, we live as if we have plenty of power on our own.

Three reasons why we may not pray:

  1. Ignorance: I’m not calling anyone stupid. Ignorance is simply not knowing any better. Sure, people know verses about prayer exist. They even know they should pray. However, many Christians have not grown up in churches where there are men and women with a heart for prayer. Prayer is generally assigned to a Sunday or a morning devotional and so people treat it that way. We need leaders who will mentor the next generation. We need churches where families gather to pray not because they were told to, but because they have a passion for prayer. Church leaders, we must begin to live out biblical preaching on prayer!
  2. Indifference: Indifference is an epidemic that plagues the church today. Unfortunately, our convictions are such that we act as if our beliefs are no more significant than choosing which shirt to wear. Jesus directly tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Yet, when it comes to the many people in our sphere of influence who do not know the Good News, we hardly feel the need to pray for them. I have begun to pray that I would feel Paul’s urgency when he wrote:  “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…we implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
  3. Unbelief: I have the hardest time with this one. I want to say we all believe God answers prayer, but do we? I feel like we sometimes try to cover for God by not praying. We just aren’t sure if He will answer the way we want. I don’t know. One of my best friends in the world was going through a difficult time recently and there were days I would neglect to pray for him. Sure, we’ll never be perfect, but I think there is also a time when we have to be real with ourselves and ask: Is what I believe just up in my head or has it sunk into my heart?

Ignorance, indifference, and unbelief. Which one do you struggle with?

 

 

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